Muslim women are misunderstood and actively choose to wear the controversial hijab head covering, according to the organiser of an awareness week to be held in Birmingham.
Nasreen Akhtar hit out at "stereotypes and preconceptions" surrounding those who followed Islam but claimed Muslims bore some responsibility for the state of affairs.
"Muslims tend to live in areas that are mainly Muslim and, to some extent, these different communities live different lives," she said.
"There have been attempts to organise events which bring different communities together but they are not always successful." Ms Akhtar, a qualified teacher, said the hijab, or head covering, was a prime example.
"People think women in Muslim society play a certain role," she said.
"They see the hijab and think that is not our choice. They see it as a symbol of oppression and they do not understand how we see it. They do not see we choose to wear the hijab.
"There are lots of Muslim women who are working very hard in their communities, in education and in the workplace."
Ms Akhtar is helping to put together this year's Islam Awareness Week (IAW), running from Monday until next Sunday.
Events will include talks on the concept of the hijab, a debate on Islamophobia and a discussion on defending multiculturalism.
The event's media officer Saleha Begum said a lack of dialogue led people to assume all Muslims were extremists. "There is so much attention paid to so-called Muslims in the media and on television," she said. "When 20 or so people burn poppies everyone is talking about it.
"What they did was wrong but they are a tiny number and there are many Muslims doing good work that nobody is interested in."
IAW deputy Zabaida Bi said events across the week aimed to build bridges.
"IAW has been going for about 16 years now and it continues to grow," she said.
"And it is all about building relationships and partnerships. Many groups which support the event are not Muslim."
Those groups include Birmingham City Council, West Midlands Fire Service, Jubilee Debt Campaign, Carrs Lane Church Centre and the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Source: Birmingham Mail - James Cartledge
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